Funding a climate tech start-up: BattGenie, a UW spin-off, a Microsoft vet and a weeding robot raise fresh money
Here’s the latest on climate tech startup funding in the Pacific Northwest.
New funding: BattGenie landed a $1.5 million seed round from Powerhouse Ventures and VoLo Earth Ventures, as well as a $300,000 grant from Washington State.
Venture capital will pay for technology development, new hires, and commercialization of their product.
The grant comes from the Washington State Department of Commerce. It will fund a project to reuse batteries from retired electric buses for the power grid. The project site will be selected by Two Rivers CDC, a Native American-owned non-profit organization.
The essential: BattGenie is a University of Washington spin-off that creates software to improve the performance of lithium batteries. The software optimizes fast charging while extending battery life.
The story: The company started in 2013 and incorporated in 2017. Its technology comes from the lab of chief technology officer Venkat Subramanian, who is now at the University of Texas. Its other co-founders, CEO Manan Pathak and Chief Product Officer Chintan Pathak, earned their PhDs from UW.
BattGenie has seven employees in Seattle and Austin.
Last year, the startup joined an accelerator led by energy giant Shell Global and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. Previous funding includes a $100,000 investment from Liquid 2 Ventures; a $5 million grant from the Department of Energy (DOE); and $75,000 in grants from several organizations.
The catch : “Using our technology, we are proud to have demonstrated improved battery life of over 100%, increased battery storage and charge times as short as 15 minutes on used batteries. in electric vehicles, consumer electronics, network storage and more,” Pathak said in a statement.
New funding: OCOchem, an energy startup based in Richland, Washington, received two government grants.
- $2.93 million awarded by the DOE to a partnership including OCOchem, carbon dioxide capture company AirCapture and others. The cohort designs a plant that uses waste steam generated in a fertilizer plant to capture CO2 of air and convert it to formate.
- $1.5 million from the Department of Commerce for a project to develop green, portable power generators and produce electrofuels for use at the Port of Tacoma. The grant is in addition to $2.5 million from other sources.
The essential: OCOchem, located in southeast Washington, is part of a growing industry to create new fuels and other products that have reduced climate impact and put CO2 utilize. OCOchem’s strategy involves separating hydrogen from water and binding it to carbon dioxide to create a liquid molecule called formate.
Formate can be used to produce energy, green hydrogen or to manufacture chemicals.
The founders: CEO and co-founder Todd Brix worked at Microsoft for 18 years before launching OCOchem in 2017. He worked in IoT, mobile and e-commerce at Windows Business Group. He started his career at Chevron Research and Technology.
Vice President of Engineering, Dr. Arun Agarwal, has over a decade of professional R&D experience in renewable chemicals, power, oil and gas.
AT “Terry” Brix, President and Chief Strategic Advisor, has created or led 16 green chemical companies over four decades, leading to seven exits and one IPO. He is also the father of Todd Brix.
Other funding: OCOchem has received several grants from the DOE and has partnerships with several universities.
In 2018, the startup closed a $700,000 seed round backed by Bend Venture and angel investors. In 2020, he joined Halliburton Labs’ inaugural cohort of accelerators and received his first commercial contract from the U.S. Army to produce formate.
Funding update: In January, we reported that Aigen, a startup developing solar-powered robots for weed control and soil regeneration, raised a $4 million funding round. This funding has since grown to $7 million.
Due to the “overwhelmingly positive reception from the market, top talent and investors,” the team chose to increase the round, co-founder Kenny Lee said via email.
The Kirkland, Washington-based agricultural technology company launched in 2020 and has 10 employees. Aigen co-founder Rich Wurden was an early engineer at electric boat company Pure Watercraft and worked at Tesla. Lee has a background in cybersecurity and co-founded a startup acquired in 2017.